Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Midget car-racing org / WED 12-7-11 / Christ's literary stopping place / Boxing's Brown Bomber / Wooer of Olive Oyl

Constructor: Julian Lim

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: ZENER CARDS (53A: Tools for ESP researchers (whose symbols are found at the ends of the answers to the five asterisked clues) — said answers end with WAVES, CIRCLE, STAR, CROSS, and SQUARE

Word of the Day: ZENER CARDS
Zener cards are cards used to conduct experiments for extra-sensory perception (ESP), most often clairvoyance. Perceptual psychologist Karl Zener designed the cards in the early 1930s for experiments conducted with his colleague, parapsychologist J. B. Rhine. (wikipedia)
• • •

The only reason I know that ZENER CARDS exist is because of crosswords. Never seen them or heard them referred to in the wild. No way I could've told you what the symbols on the cards were, so this theme was essentially meaningless to me. Thankfully, the puzzle was supremely easy and you don't need to know a thing about ZENER CARDS (except that they exist) to solve it. I rated it Easy-Medium, but it was Easy for me—a dead sprint with only a couple of snags here and there, with "here" being the NE and "there" being its symmetrical counterpart in the SW. In the NE, I wrote in PERCE Nez, thinking native Americans (Nez Perce) rather than eyewear (PINCE-nez), which kept CAN IT and thus the trickily clued CABLE (20A: Dish alternative) hidden from me for a bit. In the SW, I conflated Brutus and BLUTO (46D: Wooer of Olive Oyl) and ended up with BRUTO, which kept Joe LOUIS hidden for a bit. And with the mysterious USAC (!??!) already down there (52A: Midget car-racing org.), I didn't need any more trouble. But the surrounding answers ended up being so easy to uncover that even that section worked itself out fairly quickly. Was a little unsure about CENO- (51D: Prefix with -zoic)—I had MEZO- at first—but the crosses all worked, so I hit "Done" and the applet promptly thanked me for playing.

Theme answers:
  • 16A: *What an EEG reads (BRAIN WAVES)
  • 28A: *Back to the beginning (FULL CIRCLE
  • 38A: *Up-and-comer (RISING STAR)
  • 10D: *Act of betrayal (DOUBLE CROSS)
  • 23D: *Scene of an annual ball-dropping (TIMES SQUARE)

I don't play bridge, but even if I did, TENACE would strike me as cruddy fill (45D: Bridge combo). I've seen it in grids from time to time, and it always feels desperate. It's just two cards fused together. Couldn't this answer have been the normal English word TENANT? The answer is yes. I just filled that corner easily with TENANT in place. In no universe is TENACE better than TENANT. Whatever Scrabble value you get from having a "C" is totally undone by having a stupid non-word. TENANT > TENACE.  *Work on your corners*! *Do not let auto-fill do your work for you*! Also, consider demoting EBOLI (22D: Christ's literary stopping place), along with ECOLI and EBOLA, to the furthest depths of your grid-filling arsenal. Thank you.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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